Penny’s relationship with Leonard was a long-running storyline on The Big Bang Theory. Fans couldn’t wait to find out if they would ever cross the bridge from friendship to romance. And while the pair had their fair share of ups and downs, they finally committed to each other through marriage in season 9.
Before Penny fell for Leonard, however, there was Zack Johnson. Penny dated plenty of men before Leonard but she went back to Zack after she and Leonard broke up. Zack and Leonard were complete opposites but each had endearing qualities. And while she broke up with Zack, who’s to say that Penny made the right choice?
Zack: He Got Along With All Her Friends
As clueless as Zack was, he wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he really liked Penny and treated her well. He even got along with her friends! After first meeting the gang, he was fascinated by their work in science and was also interested in comics. Just because he was a tall, strong man didn’t mean that he couldn’t get along with people like Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard. If Penny and Zack dated long term, it would have been nice for Penny that Zack was friendly with her friends.
Leonard: His Intelligence Inspired Penny
Ironically, it was after Penny dated Zack for the second time that she realized how absent-minded her former love interests were. Dating Leonard ignited something in her that made her desire a well-read man; a man with substance.
Leonard also inspired Penny to shoot for the stars and to try higher education. If Penny never met Leonard and co., she may have remained a struggling actress for far longer than she was. It was exciting to see Penny try something new and excel at it.
Zack: His Future Wealth Escaped Penny
There are plenty of fans who think Penny was only with Leonard because of his personal success. Likewise, there are fans who think Leonard is only with Penny because of her beauty. If Penny really was only with Leonard for his success then she would be kicking herself for letting go of Zack. In the 12th season, Zack told Penny that he sold his dad’s company and made millions. He was now living the good life on a boat. If Penny wasn’t in love with Leonard, living a wealthy life on a yacht sounds right up her alley.
Leonard: He Was Her Sense Of Stability
After growing up on a farm, moving to Los Angeles from Nebraska, and trying out for role after role, Penny needed some stability. She didn’t realize the rut that she was in and that there were other opportunities she was ignoring.
Leonard was the missing piece to her life. He inspired her to do more, to do better, and was the one person she could rely on. Whenever something went awry in her life, she always went to Leonard.
Zack: They Had More In Common
Aside from their mutual understanding of Sheldon, what else did Penny and Leonard have in common? They were the perfect example of what happens when opposites attract.
A life with Zack could have been more fulfilling for Penny. She would have had someone who had mutual interests and conversations. They both enjoyed bars, they vacationed in Las Vegas, and they were both outgoing. Their relationship could have been more colorful and exciting.
Leonard: Their Bond Was Unbreakable
It says a lot about Penny and Leonard’s relationship that they were able to remain friends throughout every breakup. Starting out as friends and remaining friends proved that their bond was unbreakable. They put their personal feelings aside so as to not damper the group’s tight-knit dynamic, especially once Amy and Bernadette were in the picture. Through 12 seasons of ups and downs, Leonard and Penny remained in each other’s lives.
Zack: They Could Have Worked Together
Penny and Zack met while she was waitressing at The Cheesecake Factory and he was the restaurant’s menu supplier. In season 10, Penny was tired of being a pharmaceutical sales rep. and looking for something more. So when Zack ran into her and offered her a job at his menu company, she seriously considered it. She was familiar with sales, understood the food industry, and worked well with Zack. It was a win-win.
Sadly for Penny, Leonard hated the idea of her working with her ex-boyfriend, and even Zack’s partner was against the idea. If they were dating, this could have been an excellent business decision.
Leonard: They Were Always Going To Turn To Each Other
Even when Penny and Leonard thought they were over each other, something was always reminding them that they should be together. When Penny went on a few dates with Stuart, they ended as quickly as they began when she accidentally called him “Leonard” while they were making out. Likewise, when Priya told Leonard to stop being friends with Penny, he didn’t have the courage to do it. He adored Penny and wasn’t ready for her to be out of his life. As much as they tried, they couldn’t quit each other.
Zack: He Never Made Penny Feel Less Than Enough
Leonard made Penny feel not good enough on more than on occasion. Although he didn’t mean to, he embarrassed her for not having a college degree. He also didn’t tell her that his mother was coming into town because he didn’t think she would fit in with his family. On multiple occasions, Penny felt like their differences were strong enough to break them apart. Zack, on the other hand, never made Penny feel uneducated or idiotic. He enjoyed her just the way she was.
Leonard: They Were Best Friends
One of the best foundations for any relationship is friendship. Penny and Leonard were friends before dating and remained friends when they broke up. As time went on, they became closer as friends and gained each other’s trust and respect. No one knew them quite like the other. Even if Penny and Zack tried making it work, her bond with Leonard would have brought her right back to apartment 4A.